Smith Pyne Bankhead

Smith Pyne Bankhead was born on August 28, 1823, at Fort Moultrie, near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Brigadier General James Bankhead, U.S. Army, and his wife Anne Pyne. From a distinguished Virginia family, young Bankhead grew up in that state and attended both Georgetown University and the University of Virginia. During the Mexican War Bankhead was captain of the Virginia Volunteers. After the war he migrated to California. In 1851 he settled in Memphis, Tennessee, which was to be his lifelong home. Bankhead founded and edited the Memphis Whig, a party organ. After selling that paper, Bankhead served as city attorney and later entered private law practice.

When the war started Bankhead was immediately appointed an officer in the Tennessee artillery corps. Future general W. Y. C. Humes and he organized a battery of light artillery in Memphis. "A reliable man and a well-instructed officer," Bankhead served as captain of artillery at Columbus, Kentucky, New Madrid, and Fort Pillow. Promoted major of artillery on April 1, 1862, at the Battle of Shiloh he was chief of artillery for Polk's corps and rendered distinguished service. Subsequent to that battle Bankhead's military service was in the Trans-Mississippi Department, where he often served under his first cousin, Major General John Bankhead Magruder. Promoted to colonel on November 13,1862, he was Magruder's chief of artillery from October, 1862. In the spring of 1863 Bankhead commanded the post of San Antonio, Texas. Bankhead was assigned to command the Northern Sub-District of Texas, as "acting Brigadier General," on May 30,1863. Bankhead's tenure in command was not a success. His district was overrun with deserters and cotton speculators while his forces were still being organized. Ordered into the Indian Territory with parts of three regiments of Texas cavalry, Bankhead and his brigade skirmished with Union patrols but failed (despite orders) to link up with the main Confederate forces there. Bankhead's district command, in his absence, was assigned to another (August 29,1863). Bankhead was also soon replaced in brigade command and returned to Texas. After this assignment he reverted to his substantive rank of colonel, but did not see field service again. On December 28, 1863, Bankhead again became chief of artillery, District of Texas.

After the war Bankhead returned to Memphis and resumed his legal practice. On March 30, 1867, he was the victim of a brutal assault in the streets of Memphis, from which he died the next day. It was speculated the "deservedly popular" Bankhead was assassinated in error, the killer mistaking him for someone else.4 General Bankhead is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

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Reference:  More Generals in Gray.  Bruce S. Allardice.  A companion volume to Generals in Gray.  Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.